When you think of people who live alone, you might imagine that they are plunging into depression or wallowing in self-pity. Alternatively, you might suspect that they are engaged in wild abandon, indulging all their senses. Well, they aren’t. Solitude is mostly just a gradual acceptance of one’s own company. Sometimes you like your own company, and sometimes you don’t. Occasionally you wish you had someone to talk to, many times you eat chocolate, and often you wish you had someone to motivate you into doing something productive. Mostly, though, it’s just nice and peaceful.
I’ve gone for several days without talking to anyone, and when I do I find it difficult both physically and socially. My throat seems to close up and I feel as though I need to swallow a lot. Once, a similarly single friend noticed it and said “You haven’t talked to anyone for a while, eh?” She was right. More than the closed throat, though, is the closed mind. I sometimes find it hard to string words together. Some words disappear altogether. I don’t know if that’s from solitude or aging, or both.
I don’t watch a lot of television, but the machine is on a lot. It’s mostly for light and sound, though, not entertainment. As I write this, I am sitting on my couch with my laptop on my lap and with the TV on in front of me. The fridge is humming, the living room lights are on, and I feel cosy. I spend many evenings this way. It’s how I read and write and think and solve puzzles.
Sometimes, I solve the problems of the world, but I keep the solutions a secret. I want to tell the political analyst on CBC that she doesn’t know enough about the Alberta Party, but I won’t. I just learned a lot more about what a caliphate is and I think everyone else should know too, but I won’t tell them. In the past I would correspond with strangers on Match.com, but I’ve given that up. It was bad for my love life. I have learned a lot alone, and it doesn’t matter if the background noise is a hockey game or a thrilling movie. I can ignore them equally.
I have come to enjoy my solitude. I like to visit friends sometimes, but I also like to come home by myself. I like deciding what to eat without discussing it with anyone. I like having my home as tidy or as messy as the mood dictates. I like spending too much time on hobbies that cannot be justified, and on food that is sometimes bad for me and sometimes irritatingly healthy. I like being able to have insomnia at 2:00 AM without it being a problem for anyone else, and I like quiet.
For most of my life I have lived with other people, so these last few years of solitude have been a bit of a treat for me. I recently listened to a radio interview with the poet Nikki Giovanni who also enjoys living alone, and I felt validated. I also have friends who enjoy living alone, and sometimes I think we share a guilty secret. We don’t dislike living with people we love, but at the same time we love living by ourselves. We don’t talk about it much, but we don’t spend a lot of time looking for a roommate, either.
My situation is about to change, though, and I hope it will give me the best of both worlds. I’m moving into a home that is a part of a building which also houses my oldest son and his family. I will have my own home and my own front door, and at the same time I will have people nearby if I need company. What do you think? Is this going to be a brilliant move or a lifestyle disaster?
Only time will tell. I will keep you all informed as my life evolves. I’m saying “So long” to the seriously solo life and moving into a semi-solo domestic arrangement. One thing is for sure; it will be something to talk about.